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The Mystery of Christmas

If you come to visit me in my office you will notice that I have a lot of books.

They used to be neatly organised and arranged… but after so many defence moves they are now much more random.

In many respects my understanding of God is like that too, so that over time there is much more flexibility, replacing some of the rigid structures and divisions I used to have.

One of the implications of this is that I now read more widely and try to think more deeply, and sometimes God surprises me. Recently while reading about prayer I came across the following one written by an Arab Sufi woman:

Lord, if I worship You from fear of hell – then cast me into hell.

And if I worship You for hope of heaven – then deny me heaven.

And if I worship You in hope of gaining anything – deny me everything.

But grant that I may worship You for Your own eternal beauty and matchless grace.

That stopped me in my tracks, and this woman did not even come from a Christian background! Why do I pray? Do I worship out of fear or for what I can get? Or is it because I have begun to grasp who God is, his eternal beauty and matchless grace?

The amazing thing is that is what Christmas is all about. When Jesus came as a human, he moved the focus of God’s presence from a building or temple to a most unlikely place – a person! Philip Yancey puts it like this:

“…God who knows no before or after entered time and space.

One who knows no boundaries at all took them on:

the shocking confines of a baby’s skin, the ominous restraints of morality.”

That is the mystery of Christmas, so how and where does worship fit in for you? Look out, you may be surprised to find it when and where you least expect it!

Chaplain Ian S Whitley

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